Elizabeth Holtzman

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Elizabeth Holtzman
Elizabeth Holtzman.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 16th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Emanuel Celler
Succeeded by Charles E. Schumer
40th Comptroller of New York City
In office
January 1, 1990 – December 31, 1993
Preceded by Harrison J. Goldin
Succeeded by Alan Hevesi
Personal details
Born (1941-08-11) August 11, 1941 (age 77)
Brooklyn, New York
Political party Democratic
Residence Brooklyn, New York
Alma mater Radcliffe College
Harvard Law School
Profession Lawyer
Committees House Judiciary Committee
House Budget Committee
Religion Judaism

Elizabeth Holtzman (born August 11, 1941) is an American politician and former member of the United States House of Representatives. She was the first woman to hold office as the New York City Comptroller, and the District Attorney of Kings County, New York. A Democrat, she represented New York's 16th congressional district for four terms.[1]

In 1974, she drew national media attention as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which recommended three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.[2] After Nixon resigned as president and was given a presidential pardon by his successor, Gerald Ford, the judiciary committee held hearings on the pardon, in which Holtzman asked Ford whether his action had been a quid pro quo.[3]

Early life

She was born in Brooklyn, New York City, the daughter of attorney Sidney Holtzman and Filia Holtzman (a college professor). She is a graduate of Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High School (1958),[4] Radcliffe College (magna cum laude 1962), and Harvard Law School (1965). She was admitted to the bar in New York State (1966).[5][6]

House of Representatives 1973–1981

In the 1972 primary election, she upset Judiciary Committee chairman Emanuel Celler, the fifty-year incumbent and the House's longest serving member at that time. She was the youngest woman elected to Congress[citation needed], and held the record for over 40 years before being surpassed in 2014 by fellow New Yorker Elise Stefanik.[7][lower-alpha 1]

She served on the House Judiciary Committee.[8][9] In the summer of 1974 it held impeachment hearings on President Richard Nixon's activities.

She was a member of the House Budget Committee and Chairwoman of the House Immigration Subcommittee.

In 1978 she secured an extension of the deadline for state legislatures to ratify the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. (House Joint Resolution No. 638 was approved by the 95th Congress.)

Rep. Holtzman helped pass legislation in 1978 to expel more Nazi war criminals who had immigrated to the United States. It established the U.S. DOJ Office of Special Investigations within the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division to investigate and bring legal action to denaturalize or deport them. The Immigration and Naturalization Service had kept a list of suspects but had not pursued them.[10]

1980 Senate candidacy

Holtzman was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1980. In her party's primary she defeated former Miss America Bess Myerson, former New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay, and Queens D.A. John J. Santucci. Myerson had been the initial favorite, with endorsements from Mayor of New York Ed Koch, Governor Hugh Carey and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.[11]

In the general election, Holtzman faced Republican challenger Al D'Amato and incumbent Senator Jacob Javits. Despite his loss to D'Amato in the Republican primary, Javits ran in the general election on the Liberal Party ticket. He retained his union endorsements and drew liberal and Jewish voters away from Holtzman.[12] A theme of D'Amato's campaign was that Holtzman had never voted for a Department of Defense appropriation bill in Congress.[11]

She lost to D'Amato by a margin of 1%, or 81,000 votes.[13]

New York University

She taught at New York University Law School and its Graduate School of Public Administration, 1981–1982.[6]

1981–1994 Municipal offices

In 1981, Holtzman made a comeback, winning election as District Attorney in Kings County (Brooklyn), a post to which she was reelected in 1985. She was the first woman to be elected district attorney in New York City.

She won citywide office when she was elected New York City Comptroller in 1989. She has said that she first considered a race for Mayor of New York in 1989 before deciding to seek the comptroller's post instead. Holtzman viewed the comptroller's post as an extension of her work in Congress and as district attorney.[citation needed]

1992 Senate candidacy

In 1992, after the Clarence Thomas Anita Hill controversy, Holtzman sought the Democratic nomination for Senator to challenge Republican D'Amato again.[14]

The Democrats seeking the nomination (Holtzman, former Representative and 1984 vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams, Representative Robert J. Mrazek and Rev. Al Sharpton) split the feminists. Emily's List endorsed Ferraro, and raised money for her. Much of the leadership of National Organization for Women was in Holtzman's camp. Former Democratic Party National Organizer Anne F. Lewis had suggested women split their campaign donations between the two women. Betty Friedan endorsed Holtzman.[15]

She lost a bitter primary, with rancorous debates. Both Abrams and Holtzman exploited Ferraro's tax problems, and the legal problems of her husband and son, even suggesting a Mafia connection to the family.[16] Holtzman was vulnerable for an August loan to her campaign from Fleet Bank. In August 1992 Holtzman borrowed $450,000 to pay for television ads against Ferraro.[17] (These charges came back to haunt her in her unsuccessful 1993 bid for a second term as Comptroller, although she was later cleared of all charges. Democrats blamed her for the expensive and brutal Senate primary that left nominee Abrams too weakened to defeat vulnerable incumbent D'Amato.)[citation needed]

She finished with 13%, last behind Abrams, Ferraro, and Sharpton.[14] Holtzman did not endorse Abrams.[18] Senator D'Amato, the Republican incumbent, won re-election in November 49% to 48%.[19]

1993 Candidacy for reelection

During Holtzman's 1993 reelection race for city comptroller, she faced Assemblyman Alan Hevesi and former Congressman Herman Badillo in the Democratic primary. Badillo was also the Republican nominee for comptroller on a fusion ticket with mayoral nominee Rudolph Giuliani.[citation needed] Ferraro, upset over Holtzman's ethics accusation from the 1992 Senate primary, encouraged Hevesi to oppose Holtzman. (Hevesi and Ferraro would later become estranged.)[citation needed] Service Employees International Union Local 1199 (a politically powerful health care union led by Jennifer Cunningham), endorsed Hevesi. While initial polls showed Holtzman an easy winner for reelection, the Fleet Bank loan from the Senate race was made an issue by Hevesi and Badillo during the NY1 debate and led to Holtzman losing support.

Holtzman's office in March 1993 included a Fleet entity on a list of recommended underwriters for the city's municipal bond sales. Her campaign still owed Fleet $255,000 on loan from the 1992 campaign, and had missed two payment deadlines.[17]

In the primary, Holtzman finished second and was forced into a runoff with Hevesi.[20] Hevesi crushed Holtzman in the runoff primary election, 67% – 33%[18] and went on to defeat Badillo in the general election.[citation needed]

After elective office

Her last term in elective office ended in 1994. Since then she has been an attorney in private practice in New York City. She is now an attorney and author on politics. She published a memoir in 1996, Who said it would be easy: one woman's life in the political arena (Cynthia L. Cooper, coauthor).

She testified against the impeachment of President Clinton before the House Judiciary Committee in 1998, arguing that Clinton's alleged crimes did not come close to the things Nixon was accused of.[21]

Holtzman was a public member of the long running Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG), a commission established by a 1998 act of Congress to locate, identify, inventory, and recommend for declassification, currently classified U.S. records relating to Nazi and Imperial Japanese war crimes. Along with other public members, she had some sharp and public disagreements with the Central Intelligence Agency's interpretation of the law.[22] On 2007-09-28, the Archivist of the United States presented to Congress, the Administration, and the American people the final report of the IWG.[23]

On January 11, 2006, The Nation published her essay calling for the impeachment of U.S. President George W. Bush for authorizing "the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."[24] She expanded on her arguments for impeaching President Bush in a 2006 book coauthored with Cynthia L. Cooper, The impeachment of George W. Bush: a practical guide for concerned citizens.[24] In June 2008, Holtzman published a commentary on the action of U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in introducing articles of impeachment against President Bush on June 9, 2008.[25]

She was weighing a bid for New York State Attorney General in the 2010 election, but announced on May 25, 2010, that she had decided not to run.[26]

Holtzman was mentioned as a frontrunner for the special election to fill the congressional seat left vacant by the resignation of Anthony Weiner, but in the end she was not the chosen nominee.[27]


  1. Holtzman remained the youngest woman to win election to Congress until Elise Stefanik won election at age 30 in 2014.


  1. "galegroup.com".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Holtzman, Elizabeth. "Elizabeth Holtzman". Huffington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Shane, Scott (2006-12-29). "For Ford, Pardon Decision Was Always Clear-Cut". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Hechinger, Fred M. "ABOUT EDUCATION; Personal Touch Helps", The New York Times, January 1, 1980. Accessed September 20, 2009. "Lincoln, an ordinary, unselective New York City high school, is proud of a galaxy of prominent alumni, who include the playwright Arthur Miller, Representative Elizabeth Holtzman, the authors Joseph Heller and Ken Auletta, the producer Mel Brooks, the singer Neil Diamond and the songwriter Neil Sedaka."
  5. Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2008. Fee. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. Document Number: H1000123506 Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002. Entry Updated : 11/21/2002 Retrieved 2008-10-16
  6. 6.0 6.1 "HOLTZMAN, Elizabeth – Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. ABC News. "Elise Stefanik, the Youngest Woman Ever Elected to Congress - ABC News". ABC News. Retrieved November 6, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Holtzman, Elizabeth. "Elizabeth Holtzman". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (blogger autobiography)
  9. Amer, Mildred L. (2008-07-23). Women in the United States Congress: 1917–2008 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Ashenfelter, David (2006-12-06). "Holocaust justice hits a wall: Exile or mercy for old Nazi guards?". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-10-16. She persuaded Congress to pass legislation in 1978 to denaturalize and deport participants in wartime persecution. The Office of Special Investigations was created the next year. Since then, OSI lawyers have investigated 1,700 suspected Nazi persecutors, stripped 84 of their citizenship and deported 63. The office has 50 open Nazi-era investigations and 15 cases in litigation. It has lost only nine cases.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Reproduced by Adelaide Institute)
  11. 11.0 11.1 "The Senate: A Thoroughbred Stumbles". Time. 1980-09-22. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Holtzman, Elizabeth (2000-11-06). "Holtzman, Ehrenreich on Nader and Women's Rights". Women's eNews. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. McKinley Jr., James C. (1992-92-07). "It's Official: Holtzman Seeks Senate". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-16. Democratic Party insiders complain that she is icy and unfriendly. Even her allies admit that she can sometimes be brusque. Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 Purdum, Todd S. (1992-09-16). "Abrams, In Tight Senate Vote, Appears to Edge Out Ferraro". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Specter, Michael (1992-03-14). "Feminists Painfully Watching Holtzman and Ferraro Battle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Verhovek, Sam Howe (1992-08-20). "Senate Rivals Assail Ferraro Over Ethics". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-16`. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 McKinley Jr., James C. (1993-04-23). "Bank Named to Bond Sale After Loan to Holtzman Campaign". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 Rothbard, Murray N. "THE BRINGING DOWN OF LIZ HOLTZMAN". In Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. The Irrepressible Rothbard. Retrieved 2008-10-16. So Gerry Ferraro was not allowed to have her comeback. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory, as Holtzman's savage attacks reopened old wounds, and Bob Abrams, who had mildly seconded the attacks on Ferraro, squeezed into victory. But oddly enough, Holtzman herself only succeeded in self-destructing.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Roberts, Sam (1992-11-05). "THE 1992 ELECTIONS: NEW YORK STATE – THE WINNER'S DAY; Victorious, D'Amato Reconsiders Vow Not to Run Again". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Mitchell, Alison (1993-09-15). "THE 1993 PRIMARY: The Overview; Hevesi Outpolls Holtzman, Forcing a Runoff Vote". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Lardner, George, Jr. White House Strategy: It's Bad, but It's Not Watergate. Washington Post. 1998-12-09. Retried 2015-03-08.
  22. Jehl, Douglas (2005-01-30). "C.I.A. Said to Rebuff Congress on Nazi Files". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-16. The agency's stance poses a sharp test between the C.I.A.'s deep institutional reluctance to make public details about any intelligence operations and the broad mandate set forth in the law to lift the veil about relationships between the United States government and Nazi war criminals.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "IWG Presents Final Report to Congress on the Largest Single-Subject Declassification Effort in U.S. History". National Archives and Records Administration. 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 Holtzman, Elizabeth (2006-01-11). "The Impeachment of George W. Bush". The Nation. Retrieved 2008-10-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Holtzman, Elizabeth (2008-06-11). "An Analysis of Kucinich's Impeachment Case Against Bush". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2008-10-16. ...President Bush abused his office by deceiving Congress and the American people into the Iraq war<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Thompson, Ryan. "Former B'klyn D.A. Will Not Run for A.G." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved 2010-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Bragg, Chris. Liz Holtzman Emerges As A Top Contender for Weiner Seat. City Hall News. Retrieved 2011-07-01.

External links

Further reading

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John M. Murphy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 16th congressional district

Succeeded by
Charles E. Schumer
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ramsey Clark
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New York
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Mark J. Green
Legal offices
Preceded by
Eugene Gold
District Attorney of Kings County, New York
Succeeded by
Charles J. Hynes
Political offices
Preceded by
Harrison J. Goldin
New York City Comptroller
Succeeded by
Alan Hevesi

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.